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Autumn Production 2019

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Autumn production 2018

ACT Autumn production 2018
A review by Helen Mann
In Axbridge Community Theatre's latest production, director Phil Saunders presented a double bill of  Harold Pinter's  The Dumb Waiter and Samuel Beckett's Footfall, short works by dramatic giants who were linked by friendship and profound mutual admiration.
On Saturday evening in the High Street a succession of living rooms flickered with lurid colour as competitors strutted, panting and  weeping, in Saturday's edition of Strictly Come Dancing. At the theatre, in Beckett's sombre and challenging Footfall, Hannah  Strohmeier walked slowly, hypnotically across the tiny stage, dressed in grey, arms clasped across her chest, nine steps one way, nine steps back, measuring out distance and time and silence and one human's capacity to absorb suffering and continue to dream - of something. Behind a screen the voice of an older  woman (Janet Gwinn) - was also heard. It was not quite a conversation, more a criss-crossing of interwoven thoughts, across a time-scape of decades. Through their bodies, their voices, their thoughtful weighing of the playwright's words, the actors portrayed what Beckett described in a letter of condolence to a friend in 1960 as 'the strange thing that gives us the strength to live on and on with our wounds'.

Beckett's most famous work is Waiting for Godot, in which two men wait for two hours in theatre time and forever in real time, for the non-appearance of 'Godot'.  In a way all theatre is about waiting. All players, like all people in life, are waiting for something, and Waiting For Godot might equally have been called The Dumb Waiters. Pinter's early stage plays have been described  as 'comedies of menace' - and what could be better suited to our present moment, which feels like a protracted comedy of menace, in which we wait for what may or may not happen, the fall out of which we cannot  envisage?

In this production, Tony Wilson and Will Vero played two men in a basement room in Birmingham, waiting for the cue to commit an unspecified act of terrible violence. The tension of the previous piece had loosened the audience for laughter and there was lots of it, in response to the comedy of the script and to the actors' knife-edge portrayal of men of violence, bored with waiting but keenly fearful for themselves, terrorised by the small signs of life -  deliveries and orders - that arrive from the outer world via a dumb waiter, cleverly constructed by ACT's inventive stage crew.  

The sheer glorious hand-madeness of these productions made me feel lucky to live in a time and place such theatre is still possible - and well-attended. Given the choice, on any Saturday night of the year, I would forgo the fluorescent allure of tv and lap up the live, free-range experience of community theatre. In these productions, every audience member was a participant in the drama of humanity. It is a gift  from a company to its public, and I'm profoundly grateful to all who took the time and care to prepare it.

ACT Autumn Production 2018
A review by Joe Williams

   Axbridge Community Theatre (ACT) made two commendably bold choices for their
    latest   evening   of   productions  at   the   Town   Hall.   Samuel   Beckett’s   Footfalls   and
    Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter proved to be a delectable and contrasting pairing
    of   illusory   bleakness   and   slapstick   paranoia,   chosen   and   directed   by   company
    veteran, Phil Saunders.

    Beckett’s 1975 masterpiece may not be his best known work, but it is well loved by
    many of his biggest admirers, and it was a treat to see it performed. There is no
    doubt that the audience’s enthusiasm for this staging across its run can be credited
    to a large degree to the performance of its one visible actor, Hannah Strohmeier. A
    genuine feat of casting in her role as May, she was able to conjure a truly powerful
    sense   of   drama   from   Beckett’s   austere   script;   minute   changes   in   expression
    throwing the dynamics of the tragedy in   wholly   new   directions; her performance
    maintaining a tremendous sense of nuance that would wow the even the most critical
    of theatre goer. The play is short, but its contents are broad and its atmosphere
    intense. It emerges as if a dream; a woman paces in low lighting; her origins are
    ambiguous; an unseen mother (whose lines were delivered commendably by Janet
    Gwinn)   the   only   company   she   keeps;   their   conversations   stilted   and   seemingly
    absurd. From this reverie, May’s life emerges; the curses of her sorrow and sense of
    duty; her momentary glimpses of a life beyond her role as her mother’s companion;
    her imprisonment within a moment and within a life. Beckett’s directions are very
    prescriptive, but there is still a great deal for a director to do – and, given the play’s
    ambiguity   and   gentle   obtuseness,   plenty   of   scope   for   him   or   her   to   go   wrong.
    Saunders and co, however, got it all just right, evoking a scene of genuine despair
    and   provoking   feelings   of   real   sympathy   for   May   and   the   tragedy   of   her   tired,
    regretful existence. As it unfolded, I found myself asking “Does she exist at all?”
    Given how obvious the answer to that question now seems whilst processing what
    we   saw,   I   think   great   credit   should   go   to   both   the   play   –   and   this   marvellous

    Although the play that followed was a dramatic change in pace, our perceptions of
    what is real remained in question, as the true nature of the relationship between two
    basement room-bound hit men - and of them to the world around them – was built up
    and then repeatedly undermined. Accidental disclosures,  peculiar revelations and
    the slow divulgement of their backstory were utterly torpedoed by the constant and
    inexplicable intervention of the play’s eponym. Anyone that saw ACT’s staging of
    The Ladykillers in 2017 will recall the potent recipe of ne’er-do-wells, slapstick and
    claustrophobia,   and   the   cocktail   was   successfully   served   up   again   here,
    supplemented with some fresh ingredients. Central to its accomplishments was the
    cast: Will Vero and Tony Wilson producing extremely funny performances, that were
    received with sustained and uproarious laughter. They were a natural pairing and, as
    ever excellent casting decisions were built upon with great direction and great acting
    – comedic and other. Though the play is from 1957, it isn’t hard to see it as part of a
    lineage that forty years later produced Tarantino: the hitmen had suits and holsters,
    conducting extremely entertaining dialogue that revealed both comradery, distrust,
    drama and prolonged mundaneness of their professional lives. As the lights dimmed
    at its end, you couldn’t be sure what had happened. It’s a moment of tension that the
    company let build very subtlety beneath the humour of the proceeding scenes and
    comes as a welcome surprise.

    The run is now over, but whether you managed to see it or not, make a note of
    ACT’s next production, Time of My Life by Alan Ayckbourn, which will be on between
    24 and 27 April 2019, with John Bailey directing.

Spring production 2018

Autumn production 2017

Autumn production 2016

 ACT's Spring production 2016 was . .
ACT's Autumn 2015 production
Click on the banner to see a larger version
Click here to see the programme for Twelfth Night
Click here to see photographs of the production and rehearsals

Our production for Spring 2015
Click on the poster to see a larger version
Click here to see the programme for the production
Click here to see photographs of Blithe Spirit

Our Autumn 2014 production was . . .

Click here to see a larger copy of the poster
Click here to see the programme for The Crucible
Click here to see photographs of the production

Our Spring 2014 production was . . .

Click here to see a larger copy of the poster
Click here to see the programme for When We Are Married
Click here to see photographs of the production

Our Autumn 2013 production was . . .

 . . . presented in Axbridge Town Hall in November

Click here to see the full poster For Hamlet

Hamlet or  'The Tragical Hiftorie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark'.  

 'Tragical' it is, but also full of comedy, excitement and much else . . 

as director John Bailey puts 'it a spectacle, it's all in there. A play about a tortured soul? - yes, but much more than this - a thriller with a twisting, turning plot, a ghost story to raise the hairs on the back of the neck, a tale of murder and revenge, a tortured love story - a doomed romance, a tale of ambition and jealousy, a tale of . . . ? Buy tickets, don't miss out - what's not to like?'

Hamlet was one of Shakespeare's most popular works during his lifetime and is still so today -  it has topped the Royal Shakespeare's Company's performance list since 1879. Hamlet has inspired many other writers, leading to seemingly endless re-telling and adaptation, is the origin of many phrases and sayings in common use today, and contains perhaps the greatest soliloquies in English literature. It has been described as 'the world's most filmed story after Cinderella'.

Click here to see the programme for Hamlet

Click here to see some comments on the production

Click here to read a review of Hamlet (this is the full text of a review which appeared in a shortened form in The Cheddar Valley Gazette)

Click here to view photographs of Hamlet

The set for Hamlet

Our Summer 2013 production was . . .

Click here to see the full poster for A Separate Peace & The Real Inspector Hound

A Separate Peace
A sly, gentle dig at society's conventions and preconceptions. In A Separate Peace, originally written for television, the central character challenges the assumption that a hospital is for the ill, by booking himself in wanting privacy and routine. He can pay his way, but the conflict between his and the hospital staff's views of the situation provides the theme, and the ultimate outcome, of the play.

The Real Inspector Hound
The Real Inspector Hound is the ultimate parody of the country-house murder mystery. Starting with a play within a play it embodies absurdism, farce and satire as two critics become embroiled in the performance they are supposed to be watching. The play is said to give away the ending of The Mousetrap which is supposed to be a closely guarded secret. It was first performed in 1968 at the Criterion Theatre in London, when the parts of the two critics were played by Richard Briers and Ronnie Barker.

The programme
Click here to view the programme for this production

Click here to see the Cheddar Valley Gazette review
Click here to see the Strawberry Line Times review

Click here to view the full set of photos of A Separate Peace:

Click here to view the full set of photos of The Real Inspector Hound:

Click here to see earlier productions